FRIEND OF THE PEOPLE 283 villages. The elders all said with a sad face: It is better nowadays to have bad crops than to have good crops. In case of floods and drought, we can skimp and save and somehow live in freedom. But when a good year comes, the tax-collectors come to the door and the people are led away in chains. It is worse than death itself/ After saying this, the elders wiped their eyes, and I shed tears too. Further- more, in all the towns that I visited, there are hordes of refugees. .. . "Confucius said: 'An oppressive government is more to be feared than tigers.' I used to doubt this statement. After seeing the present conditions, I think what Confucius said was an understatement. Famines and floods kill hundreds of times more people than tigers, but today the people of the country fear the tax-collectors even more than they fear famines and floods. I have made a private calculation of the number of these tax-collectors. Taking the average of 500 tax- collectors per district, I estimate there are over 200,000 tigers and wolves let loose in the whole country to prey upon the people. I ask Your Majesty, how are the people going to live, and how do you expect to succeed in establishing a benevolent administration?" Exactly one month after he sent the first memorandum, he followed it with a second private letter to the Empress, in which he suggested the following wording of an edict to be issued by her: "It has come to *5ur knowledge that in the provinces along the Huai and the Cheh rivers [Chekiang], there is the greatest amount of outstanding debts owed by the people to the government. These districts have suffered from natural calamities for the past years and corpses lie on the road- side. Although the first wheat harvest is good this year south of the Huai River, it is yet uncertain what kind of a harvest there will be in West Chekiang. We therefore wish that all debts owed to the govern- ment in the districts south, east, and west of the Huai River, and^in West Chekiang, be suspended for one year, regardless of the age of these debts and without taking into account whether the capital has been recovered or not. It is our wish that through this measure our long-suffering people may have the pleasure of a full belly." Then he advised the Empress to draw up separate statutes regarding the dis- posal of all debts according to his previous detailed recommendations. In July 1092, the recommendation of Su Tungpo was formally issued as an*edict. His wish was fulfilled and the people's debts to the govern- ment covered by his memorandum were entirely forgiven.